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Vermont Garden Journal: Sweet Peas

A sweet pea flower.

Sweet peas are known as the Queen of the Annuals. And why not, these climbers have vivid colored flowers that look like floating butterflies, a long season of bloom in our climate, and an amazing scent. The sensuous fragrance is a captivating blend of honey and orange with varying layers of subtlety. It invokes love, romance and passion. But I get carried away.

Unlike garden peas, sweet peas are relatively new on the garden scene. They were first discovered in Sicily in the 1600's by a Franciscan monk name Cupani. In fact, you can still buy this original 'Cupani' variety to grow in your garden.

But there are many other varieties to grow. Some are tall and need trellising, while others, such as 'Windowbox Cupid', can grow in small containers. I like the fragrant varieties. Try 'Old Spice Mix' , 'April in Paris' and 'Perfume Delight' for some knock your socks off smells. But don't get discouraged if your sweet peas aren't very fragrant even with these varieties. Sweet peas need sunny days and cool temperatures to smell their best.

Sow sweet peas seeds once the ground can be worked and all danger of a hard freeze has passed. You can also sow them indoors one month before planting and then transplant seedlings into the garden. Nick the seed with a nail file and soak them in warm water overnight to hasten germination. Plant them near a window or door to enjoy the scent. Support tall varieties with a trellis or fence and in 50 days you'll be snipping fresh pea blossoms for indoor bouquets. But don't be tempted to eat them. The flowers and pods are poisonous.

And now for this week's tip, although town meeting day has passed, don't be tempted to follow the old ritual of starting your tomato seeds now. Tomatoes only need 6 weeks of indoor growing before transplanting into the garden. Start them now and you'll be transplanting tomatoes in mid-April. It could still be snowing!

Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about some nut trees. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.

Broadcast on Friday, March 7, 2014 at 5:57 p.m. and Sunday, March 9, 2014 at 9:35 a.m.

The Vermont Garden Journal with Charlie Nardozzi is made possible by Gardener's Supply, offering environmental solutions for gardens and landscapes. In Burlington, Williston and

Growing Sweet Peas
National Sweet Pea Society

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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